The website of Russia’s Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities was hacked over the weekend, displaying a ‘Glory to Ukraine’ banner instead of the normal homepage.
A ministry spokesperson told Russia’s state news agency RIA late on Sunday that the site was down but that users’ personal data was safe.
Other media outlets had reported that hackers were seeking a ransom to prevent them from making users’ data public.
This is the latest pro-Ukraine hack since Russian troops entered Ukraine on the 24th February. Since that time several Russian state-owned firms and news organisations have been compromised by pro-Ukrainian groups in protest.
Prior to the start of the conflict, Ukrainian organisations like banks and government entities were the target of an increasing number of cyberattacks. A significant number took the form of so-called wiper operations, designed to delete data, or DDoS attacks, using connections from a large number of distributed devices to overwhelm computer systems.
In retaliation, volunteer hackers joined the ‘IT Army’ established by Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Digital Transformation.
The group, accessed using the messaging app Telegram, provides a list of possible targets owned by the Russian state.
“We are creating an IT army. We need digital talents. There will be tasks for everyone. We continue to fight on the cyber front. The first task is on the channel for cyber specialists,” Fedorov said in February.
Since then hackers have attacked Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, as well as multiple government websites. They include the official Kremlin site government.ru, as well as those of the State Duma (Russia’s lower house of parliament) and the Ministry of Defence.
In March, the Anonymous hacker collective took credit for hacking Russian state TV and streaming services to show footage of the conflict in Ukraine.
Last month, Russian video-hosting site RuTube was taken offline for three days as a result of cyberattacks launched by pro-Ukraine groups.
The attacks also resulted in altered satellite TV guide menus in Moscow on Victory Day, which marked the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.
During a meeting with the Russian Security Council last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that the number of cyberattacks carried out by foreign state entities had grown by several times.
“Experts believe it would not be possible for lone hackers to achieve that. The hackers attack from different countries in a well-coordinated effort. These attacks are conducted by state-run structures, and we know that the armies of some countries officially include cyber troops,” he said.
Not all one way
Ukraine is not having it all its own way in the cyber sphere, though. A top official in charge of cybersecurity in Ukraine said on Monday that Russian hackers had attempted to access mobile devices used by Ukrainian officials.
Victor Zhora, deputy head of Ukraine’s State Special Communications Service, said pro-Russia hackers were regularly targeting officials’ phones.
“We see a lot of attempts to hack Ukrainian officials’ phones, mainly with the spreading of malware,” Zhora told journalists at an online news conference.
However, he added that his service had not discovered any evidence to suggest that any device had been infiltrated successfully – yet.